When it comes to the pickleball serve, many players simply loft the ball into play. It’s a consistent and reliable approach, to be sure. But with the right combination of tactics and techniques, you can turn your serve into a powerful weapon that will frustrate opponents and win quick, easy points.
Bigger serves are becoming more commonplace in pickleball, especially in professional singles pickleball. Players use the serve to set up the rest of the point, dictating the pace and forcing their opponent to play defense.
Let’s explore some tips that players of nearly any experience level can use to level up their serve.
Hit your serve with power
A powerful serve not only puts your opponents on the defensive right from the start but also allows you to maintain control of the game. So, how can you hit your serve with power and make it a weapon in your pickleball arsenal?
Firstly, focus on generating more paddle head speed. The faster you swing, the more power you’ll be able to transfer to the ball. Practice snapping your wrist at contact to increase spin and velocity. Secondly, don’t underestimate torque and footwork when it comes to serving with force. Rotate and uncork your torso into the shot if you use an open stance. If you use a closed stance on your serve, step into the shot with your non-dominant foot, similar to a forehand.
Lastly, analyze your technique and incorporate proper paddle placement into your serve motion. Keep your paddle face pointed slightly downward throughout the swing and make contact slightly below waist level for a strong strike that generates a lot of pace.
Related: Best Pickleball Paddles for Power
Aim towards the back of the court
A common mistake many pickleball players make is aiming their serve towards the middle or front of the court. While this may seem like a good strategy to catch your opponent off guard, aiming towards the back of the court can actually give you a distinct advantage. By directing your serve deep into the backcourt, you force your opponent to move quickly and use their most powerful shots to return it. This not only puts them on the defensive right from the start, but it also limits their ability to accurately place their next shot.
Another benefit of aiming towards the back of the court is that it gives you more time and space to prepare for your opponent’s response. When they’re forced to move farther away from the net to retrieve your deep serve, they have less control over their returns, giving you ample opportunity to set up for an aggressive shot. Furthermore, by serving towards the backcourt consistently, you create a pattern that makes it harder for your opponent to predict where your next shot will land. This unpredictability can be a valuable weapon in keeping them off balance during rallies.
Apply topspin to your shot
One key technique that can turn your pickleball serve into a formidable weapon is applying topspin to your shot. Topspin is when the ball rotates forward as it flies through the air, causing it to dip and bounce with more speed and accuracy. By adding topspin to your serve, you can make it more challenging for your opponents to return.
When applying topspin, focus on making contact with the ball slightly above its center. This will help generate the desired rotation and increase the chances of a successful shot. Additionally, make sure to follow through with your swing and keep a loose grip on your paddle to allow for maximum spin. As you practice this technique, pay attention to how the ball behaves after it bounces on the opposite side – you’ll notice that it stays low and fast, making it difficult for opponents to anticipate or react accordingly.
Integrating topspin into your pickleball serve requires some practice and fine-tuning. However, once mastered, this technique has the potential to revolutionize your game by keeping opponents off balance and earning you crucial points along the way.
Related: Best Pickleball Paddles for Spin
Vary the direction of your serve
One simple but effective way to turn your pickleball serve into a weapon is by varying the direction of your serve. Most players tend to stick with their favorite spot, whether it’s the crosscourt corner or the middle of the court. However, changing up the direction can keep your opponents guessing and force them out of their comfort zone.
By mixing it up and serving to different areas of the court, you not only disrupt their rhythm but also create opportunities for yourself. For example, serving wide can open up space on the opposite side for you to attack or drive a powerful shot.
Moreover, varying your serve direction allows you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses more effectively. If you notice that they struggle with returns on one particular side of the service box, focusing on that area can put them under consistent pressure. By keeping them off balance and unable to anticipate where your next serve will go, you gain a significant advantage in dictating play and setting yourself up for success throughout each point.
Adjust the speed and height of your shot
One of the key elements to consider when turning your pickleball serve into a weapon is adjusting the speed and height of your shot. By manipulating these factors, you can deceive your opponents and keep them on their toes. Varying the speed of your serve not only makes it more difficult for your opponent to anticipate, but it also allows you to control the tempo of the game. Experiment with different speeds during practice sessions and find out which works best for you in different scenarios.
In addition to speed, changing up the height of your shot can add an element of surprise to your serve. Instead of always aiming for a low shot that barely clears the net, try mixing it up with high arcing serves that land further back in the court. This not only throws off your opponent’s timing, but it also puts pressure on them as they have to adjust their positioning accordingly. Practice hitting serves at varying heights and learn how each type affects the game flow.
Target your opponent’s weaknesses
Targeting your opponent’s weaknesses can be a game-changer in pickleball. Instead of just serving aimlessly, take the time to observe and analyze your opponent’s weaknesses during the warm-up phase or early stages of the match. Is their footwork inadequate? Do they struggle with high balls or fast serves? Knowing these vulnerabilities can give you a strategic advantage. Once you’ve identified their weak areas, be relentless in exploiting them throughout the game.
One way to target your opponent’s weaknesses is by varying your serve placement. If they struggle with backhand returns, direct most of your serves towards that side of the court. Similarly, if they have difficulty returning deep balls, send powerful serves that force them into uncomfortable positions near the baseline. By focusing on their weakest areas, you not only put them under pressure but also increase your chances of gaining control over rallies and ultimately winning points.
If you hit a few serves out, dial it back for a few points
If you’re on a serving spree and suddenly start hitting a few serves out, it might be time to dial it back for a few points. Sometimes, the pressure of maintaining your powerful serve streak can lead to overexerting yourself. By taking a step back and regaining composure, you give yourself a chance to reset mentally and fine-tune your technique.
Dialing it back doesn’t mean compromising power or accuracy; instead, it’s about finding the right balance. Remember, pickleball is not just about overwhelming your opponent with powerful serves but also strategically placing your shots. Taking a break from those full-force serves gives you an opportunity to focus more on placement and control. Use this time wisely to analyze the court, identify weak spots in your opponent’s defense, or maybe even throw in some unexpected spin or slice.
In conclusion: Strengthening your serve can help you win in pickleball
Strengthening your serve can truly make a difference in your pickleball game. It may seem like a small aspect of the sport, but it is crucial for gaining an advantage over your opponents, especially in certain formats like singles. By honing your serving skills, you not only increase your chances of scoring a point right off the bat, but you also put pressure on your opponent and force them to play defensively.
So next time you step onto the pickleball court, remember that every shot counts – starting with your serve. By focusing on strengthening this aspect of your game, not only will you boost your chances of winning points directly from serves but also create opportunities for future victory by imposing yourself as a dominant force on the court